Art Fag City’s Paddy Johnson Sued by Embattled Art Authenticator

12/13/2011 3:39 PM |

Forensic art authentication at work. (Courtesy Peter Paul Biro)
  • Forensic art authentication at work. (Courtesy Peter Paul Biro)

Our own columnist Paddy Johnson, czarina of the New York art blogosphere and editorial director of Art Fag City, was as surprised as we were yesterday to learn that she—along with Gawker, ArtInfo-publisher Louise Blouin Media, the International Council of Museums, the Georgia Museum of Art and more—is being sued for libel by Peter Paul Biro, a Canadian art authenticator whose controversial forensic approach was the subject of an investigation by the New Yorker back in July 2010. Biro filed a libel suit against the New Yorker in July of this year because of the article’s rather damning estimation of his fingerprint-analyzing art authentication method, and he is now going after bloggers for essentially re-posting the NYer‘s article.

While the smaller defendants in this multi-pronged libel suit may not have the means to fight Biro’s case, Lee Rosenbaum notes, a court victory for the New Yorker would ensure all media (and museum) outlets emerge unscathed:

You can see the part about Johnson on P. 40 of the supplemental complaint filed this month by Biro against her and the other new defendants in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York. I hope Paddy emerges from this unscathed. Art Fag City is one of the most popular sites in the art blogosphere. Presumably the deep-pocketed Condé Nast is defending this vigorously. A New Yorker victory could float all boats.

The original libel suit, Courthouse News reports, sought $2 million from Condé Nast and David Grann, the investigative journalist who wrote the original article. According to Biro the new batch of defendants named in the amended complaint are guilty of defamation due to their assumption that “it must be true because it’s in the New Yorker.”

3 Comment

  • This article is missing one important point. Some defendants not only used Grann’s article as a source, but also fabricated information on their own by stating Biro had done jail time and is a forger. Publishing a claim that someone committed a crime is called libel. Even if the NY-er is dismissed, the other defendants will have to face their own fate. One defendant, publisher Dan Rattiner has already settled with Biro, who sought $2-Million. Noah Charney looks to be in the most trouble here.

  • Libel cases in America are difficult to win because they require the accuser to prove that the publisher knew the claim was false and published it anyway, or published it with “reckless disregard” to its veracity.

  • Henry, you’re right, they are difficult. However, a journalist should never write that someone committed a crime when in fact they did not. That’s libel per se, and perhaps the easiest to prove. And in my estimation, after reading the docket, Louise Blouin Media, Noah Charney, and the Georgia Museum are in clear violation, and it is actionable. Paddy Johnson may have a problem as well. Another problem is this art dealer Theresa Franks, who Grann relied on for information. Seems she has integrity and legal troubles of her own to contend with. I wonder how much Biro got from the publisher Dan Rattiner. They settled last recently.